To Safely Return To Campus, D.C. Schools Look To Outdoor Learning | #schoolshooting

As the world continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic, students are taught to be even more conscious of keeping their germs to themselves. And at Milton Gottesman Jewish Day School of the Nation’s Capital, Hebrew, along with the rest of the curriculum, is taught outside.

“We are repurposing all of our space and all of our people to make this work,” says Dr. Deborah Skolnick-Einhorn, the head of school.

The ga-ga pit, a pit in the shape of a hexagon where a gentler version of dodgeball is played, is now a classroom where groups of no more than eleven students learn, as is the playground and roof of the school building. The art teacher is now teaching general studies to younger elementary students. The bus driver is disinfecting doorknobs and other high-touch surfaces. And the librarian is the COVID-19 screener, taking the temperature of anyone who tries to get through the school gate.

In D.C., outdoor learning comes at a price. Annual tuition at Milton is $28,400 for pre-K ­through fifth grade and $31,200 for sixth through eighth grade. It’s a school for families of privilege. Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner send their children there, according to the New York Times, although the school will not confirm the enrollment of specific students for privacy reasons. Outdoor learning, like learning pods and tutors, is yet another way inequities in education could widen during the pandemic, given how pricey and complicated it is to execute.

As public schools moved ahead with remote learning, Milton opted for what Skolnick-Einhorn calls “virtual plus.” This means students learn in-person one to two days per week, while the rest of the school week is virtual. With the exception of pre-K and kindergarten, learning occurs outside. Students go inside the school facility only to use the bathroom. The private school was unsatisfied with the three models that school districts across the country were using to respond to the coronavirus—full in-person learning, full remote learning, or a hybrid of the two—and so made the decision over the summer to incorporate outdoor learning. The school invested in outdoor hand washing stations and tents, along with voice amplifiers for teachers and yoga mats for students to enhance the experience.

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